I Said No to an Overnight Camp.
Bad Mom?

As I am writing this, most of the parents of my daughter’s classmates are frantically packing their kids’ sleeping bags and clothing for an overnight school camp for three days. Or at least I imagine so, and so does my daughter. We are packing our ski goggles, ski pants and extra sweaters for a ski trip to Park City Mountain Resort instead. When you are reading this – we are on our way to Utah, while the other kids are just getting settled at their camp side somewhere in New York. My daughter is on 5th grade, and she is an honor student who reads more books in a week that I read in six months. She is well-behaved, smart and doesn’t get into trouble. I don’t think I am a helicopter parent watching her every step – and by the way, I have no trouble letting her to go to ski school in Park City Mountain Resort and letting a person that I have never met before to take her up to the mountain and challenge her to get to the next skiing level and test her limits with her skis. On a big mountain. But how come I have trouble letting her to go on an overnight camp with the kids that she goes to school with every day, with a teacher in a school that we have carefully picked to be among the best in our neighborhood? I don’t know. There is a part of me that wanted to say “go, and have fun”, especially seeing how much she wanted to go, and even when the teacher was telling us “not to worry”. But the lack of really knowing where they were going (not enough communication from school), and what they were going to be doing, and not knowing any of the people going.. I just couldn’t. I don’t care if it’s “a good school”, and “carefully selected students” going with “plenty of parents”, I could not let my 11 year old to go on an overnight school camp. Does this make me a bad mom or a good mom? According to the teacher, more of a bad mom, not that she said it with words. Maybe I do know why I can’t let her go. I understand that I am denying my daughter an experience and a lifelong memory, but how could I guarantee that it would be a lifelong good memory? When I was a kid I went to summer camps, Girl Scout camps, school camps, and gymnastics camps and dance camps, starting when I was about my daughter’s age. I was scared shitless on my first camp, and all what I wanted was to go home. Then I got older and started doing all of the things my mother wouldn’t have approved me doing – at the camps. And I witnessed more bad behavior, bullying, under age drinking and smoking cigarettes at the church and sports camps than in the “bad neighborhoods”. No disclosure here which of the listed I participated in, but not all of it was voluntary – on the camps I was bullied doing things I normally would not do. And on my 6th grade camp one of my schoolmates, and a roommate of mine went to diabetic shock. Lifelong memories yes, but not all good ones. I know I can not shield her from “bad memories” or bad things forever, and I do want to put her in situations where she has to be able to make up her own mind, take care of herself and be independent. And I do. But school camp is not one of them. At the same time – she will have to learn that you can’t have everything in life and sometimes it’s a bitter lesson to learn. But at least I am making this one a bitter sweet. Can’t think of a better way to NOT go to a school camp than going skiing in Park City. Maybe I’m not that bad of a mom after all. You can read our travel stories and about our ski trip at Park City Mountain Resort Snowmamas. Disclosure: I am one of the Park City Mountain Resort Snowmamas, and my trip to Park City is paid for. My opinions are my own.
  1. We are not letting our son go to 5th grade camp for the same reasons. We are the only parents i know of making this decision. Our son is a lot like you describe your daughter, reads a ton, very smart, social, well liked and athletic. He is a very happy kid. We just feel that we are being asked to place a lot of trust in people we do not even really know. And we agree that there are many many other ways to teach your child independence, for example such training starts when they are 2 and takes place every day in your home, not in 4 days at camp. We are also taking a trip during that week to Disneyland. Glad I found your post and I think you sound like a GOOD MOM for it!

  2. I think as mother’s we beat ourselves up over decisions we make every day. In twenty years your daughter won’t even remember that she missed a school trip! She will however remember this family trip to Utah for the rest of her life. There will be plenty of future opportunities for overnights. I would caution though that no matter what you do you won’t be able to shield her from all negative experiences in her life nor should you try. It’s important for kids to know that life isn’t always butterflies and rainbows.

  3. Hmmmm. Good mom? Bad mom? I think you explained it yourself in the very beginning. “…she is an honor student who reads more books in a week that I read in six months. She is well-behaved, smart and doesn’t get into trouble.”

    She is who she is because of the decisions you made for her in the past and what you taught her about making her own decisions. That’s proof that you’re a GREAT mom!

  4. I don’t think it’s a good mom/bad mom thing, you get to make the decisions without anybody calling you names (including yourself). And I agree that the experiences on overnight trips can be less than ideal. But here’s my thing: bad experiences make people more interesting and shape them in ways we can’t possibly calculate. And independent bad experiences might be the most important of all, since they reveal important things to kids about themselves.

  5. I don’t think you’re a bad mom at all! I remember going to Girl Scout camp when I was my daughter’s age and I hated the whole trip. My bunk mates who I thought were my friends turned out very much not to be and the whole I time I was there, I just wanted to come home. I think though that we can’t alway base our own experiences on what we let our kids experience but the need and desire to do just that is there. I think you made a good decision this time around but I don’t know if I’d let those bad past experiences keep her from doing things in the future. It’s a tough balance to know when to let them go on these things but you’ll know when it’s right!

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